If you know anything about my history as a journalist, I haven’t had much luck with producers who wear masks. A million years ago when I ran a feature on MF Doom and Danger Mouse in Scratch magazine Doom tried to pull a fast one and sent a stunt double to his photo shoot. Like many concert goers to his shows I was not pleased.
Thankfully he did not ruin it for all secretive producers and beat makers. Recently I was introduced to NeMO aka IMakeMadBeats. He’s been crafting beats for a long time so I’m playing a serious game of catch up. In 2009 he dropped a collab project on Koch, Transcontinental and has a new piece of self-titled work out on Doxside Music Group. Black Milk, Hezekiah, Icon the Mic King, Butta Verses, Von Pea (Tanya Morgan), Sabac Red (Non Phixion), and Steele (Smif N Wessun) all show up for the party but I don’t think they were wearing masks. Keep your eyes wide shut as Nodfactor.com get’s a little familiar.
Nodfactor: Tell me about the new project and what it represents to you as a producer.
IMAKEMADBEATS: The album I dropped in 2009, Transcontinental, on Koch records I didn’t get as much control over that project as I would’ve liked. I loved how the album came out with a whole lot of guests on it, a whole lot of people I wanted to work with, but I didn’t get the chance to really tweak and work with it as I had in mind. So this project I felt is a more personal introduction to who I am, who I roll with and what I stand for. Then on top of that it’s an introduction for my crew. That was the main goal.
Nofdactor:I read this quote on your Myspace Bio which is kind of crazy in a good way: “I used to draw track channels in the back of church programs.”
IMAKEMADBEATS: That’s how it all started. At this point in my life I’m probably reaping the benifits from being a nerd and I don’t know what happened the last 3 or 4 years with hip hop and the world. Now all of a sudden it’s cool to be a nerd. When I was growing up, nah man. I got picked on in the bus, now it’s like “oh he was a genius.” I wasn’t bragging about this stuff back then. I kept it hidden. [laughs] Similar to how Pro Tools looks, we started off on a program called Digital Orchestra Pro. Before we got that program I used to dream about the program and I would draw it in my head and it would look just like Pro Tools but a lot less potent. So I would draw the track channels out. So that way I could and idea in the 8ths, 16th s to see were certain drum sounds would land. Back then I was a fanatic for the snare before the kick. I used to love that.
Nodfactor: So what’s behind the mask?
IMAKEMADBEATS: There’s several answers to that. The mask simply, when you’re any kind of artist you get to recreate yourself, recreate what you want people to see. Now when I’m in the streets I’m not MF Doom. I’m not going to walk around with a mask on, you see what you see. But if I had to choose to I would choose that, that’s why Myspace facebook you see the mask over my face. The mask I feel tells my story better than my face does.
Nodfactor: Does it speak like the anonymous nature of the producer? At least that’s how I feel sometimes. That’s why I started the site because, I feel like the producers are faceless. People know the song and the artist, they know the beat but they rarely stop to ask well who made the beat and I try to put a face on it. So it’s interesting that you cover it.
IMAKEMADBEATS: Yeah. The ironic part about that is I’m covering my face but people remember that face more than any other face.I have crazy stories about that face.
Nodfactor: Just tell me one…
IMAKEMADBEATS: One, aight. When I first got it laced I put it on a T-shirt that I made on Fulton st. not far from St. James. A week later I was Brooklyn Hip Hop fest and I wore the shirt there. It was over by the river and some woman seen the shirt. She was like–she’s selling t-shirts by the way–and she’s like ‘That’s a dope shirt. I would buy that shirt.’ Then she looked at my hair and was like ‘that’s you’ and I was like ‘Yeah.’ I walked off never seen her again. Two years later we’re about to drop the Transcontintental I’m looking for venues on the east coast to set up the tour me Rock C, Hezekiah, Oh No Chino XL, was just going thru cats or whatever and hittin up heads I know. Somebody puts me in contact with this woman name Missy in Baltimore. I called her up said my name is IMAKEMADBEATS. She was like ‘I remember that from somewhere…You’re the kid with the t-shirt! From the brooklyn hiphop fest 2 years ago!’ I was like ight yeah and she was like you’re coming out with oh of course I love your shirt. Just send me a link with your stuff. She was the most hype promoter I’ve ever dealt with, and it was because she loved the mask. To this day last year she called me to come out and do a show with Illa J and it all started off because she liked my t-shirt.
IMAKEMADBEATS: Nah. It all depends on what you do to the snare. If you talking about raw off the wax. Nah, there’s several that are better. I used a snare on the title track to my album, I Make Mad Beats. That’s probably my favorite. My favorite break is the Mountain Brothers break, but that’s not the best snare. There’s a difference between my favorite and the best. My favorite rapper is not the best rapper.
Nodfactor: ahh ok so who is your favorite rapper?
IMAKEMADBEATS: For a while it was Common, Now I cant give him that but to be honest with you I’ve been listening to instrumentals the last few years…
Nodfactor: Whats your favorite instrumental album to come out the last few years?
IMAKEMADBEATS: Cosmogramma, Madlib has been dropping crazy stuff. Donuts of course..
Nodfactor: It being February 10th I wanted to ask you whats your favorite Dilla beat?
IMAKEMADBEATS: Come on man that’s not fair. [laughs] You know what’s your favorite breath of air? You know that’s how that question is to me. Everyone is my favorite breath because everyone keeps me living. If they have me at gun point and I just might die, I would definitely choose “Players.” Um you know what though, you know what was one of my favorite ones that didn’t get no shine though?
IMAKEMADBEATS: The joint “4 horsemen”, on the Phife album, that. I love that beat son! It sounds simple but once you get the original sample it’s not that.. It’s not like a loop or something like that. Just to let it be known I don’t like verses on that track. I don’t like the verse at all on that track. Phife came off cool but his homeys I really wasn’t feeling. But at the very beginning of the track and the end of the track there is just pieces of the beat. I just chopped the beat out of it in Sound Forge and looped it up so I could play but the instrumental but the last part of the beat where Dilla does—I couldn’t find no way to chop it up because dudes were rapping over that part. So I literally like had to put my own little fake instrumental on it. I had that joint for years dog and a while ago I found the instrumental on the net and I just copped that. I could have been negative in my bank account and I would have copped that.
NODFACTOR: So what do you think is the best flip of Bob James “Nautilus?”
IMAKEMADBEATS: Ahh man you know whats funny that I was just talking about this like 3 days ago. I was listening to the sample like trying to look for a part that hasn’t been flipped yet. I don’t know man if it’s the Ghostface joint or...
NODFACTOR: Ahh “Daytona 500”
IMAKEMADBEATS: Yea that was hot, and then I got to take it back to the “Mindspray” joint on Jeru’s album. There were some dope verses on there.
NODFACTOR: Has there ever been a break that gave you problems like “you know what this sample isn’t doing what I want it to do man..”
IMAKEMADBEATS: Na, there’s so many ways of flipping something. It’s not necessarily about chopping it into eighty-seven pieces. Sometimes it’s simply about layering it with other things. Ff it sounds so perfect already and chopping would do nothing but degrade it, then I’d do some chops on the bar. I’d layer it and bring out the Moog, The Hammond or do some effects. Even better…this is something I learned from my 90s producers… a lot of the time you get your take on the sample simply by how you recorded the sample. Cats like Primo or Pete who have their specific sound, they would loop up stuff but you would hear it and be like that’s Pete Rock. I can’t really say I’ve heard something and didn’t know what to do never had that problem.
Nodfactor: Now you’re an alum of Quad Studios. What did that experience bring to your production?
IMAKEMADBEATS: A lot of artists on my album I met in Quad. Producers came through. A lot of old stuff on 2 inch tapes–I’m not gonna say no names–were getting transferred into Pro Tools, artists from the 70s that recorded at Quad -so there would be acapellas, separate instruments… and certain assistant engineers–I’m not going to say no names–at about 2 am would pull up those sessions and put it on a hard drive. I know–would do that? [ Laughs]
You also have the aspect that for the first time ever I got the chance to work at a proper facility and recreate the things I had in my head. In Quad is where I learned how to play drums because they had a drum set. They had every keyboard, every sampler ever. You grow up and hear about Primo with the MPC 60, Dilla with the 3000 and I had the ASR-10. It definitely allowed me to get my super science off and allowed me to dig deeper.